Adult Victims and Witnesses

 

Downloadable PDF version – Attending Trial – Adult Victims/Witnesses (PDF 0.3MB)

Before the trial
During the trial
After the trial
Other general tips

For many people, attending a criminal trial is both an unfamiliar and stressful experience.

For victims and witnesses required to give evidence at a trial, it is important that you prepare to attend trial well in advance.

The following Fact Sheet is intended to provide you with a ‘check list’ of the things you may consider Before, During and After attending a trial.

The fact sheet is intended to be used as a general guide only and includes a number of handy ‘tips’ and ‘hints’ to make the experience of attending a trial somewhat easier for you.

Where you have more specific questions you may have about attending trial, it is important you raise these with either the Investigating Officer, DPP Prosecutor or Witness Assistance Officer (if one has been allocated to you)

Before the trial

  • Advise your employer (or other relevant persons) well in advance of the days that you may be absent from work (you may consider how much information you want to provide).
  • Ask the Investigating Officer or DPP staff to provide a letter for you to give to your employer (or other relevant persons) detailing the time away from work you will require.
  • Make sure you know the address of the Court and exactly where it is located.
  • Have a suitable plan or arrangement in place for getting to the court (don’t leave this to the last minute)
  • Ensure you have appropriate child care arrangements in place if required (SAPOL, DPP or Court Staff are not able to provide child care support).
  • Dress comfortably and appropriately for a court environment (neat and casual is best)
  • Arrange to arrive at the court at the time you are given. Avoid rushing where you can.
  • If driving, plan where you might park in advance (there is plenty of secure (paid) parking close to the court).
  • Check timetables for trams, trains or buses and allow additional time should there be delays with public transport.
  • Arrange a support person to arrive and leave from the court with you (particularly if you are worried about seeing the accused).
  • Have a good breakfast and prepare some snacks to bring with you (in the event that you are required for longer than expected).
  • Bring a book or magazine or something else to keep you occupied (in the event that you have to wait around longer than expected).
  • Make sure you take (or bring) required prescribed medications. It is not recommended that you cease taking prescription medications before trial (unless advised by your doctor or specialist).
  • Make appropriate plans for after the trial (see below)
  • Ask the Investigating Officer or DPP staff about dealing with the media (if this is likely to occur)
  • Ensure that family members, counsellors and other support people know when you are giving evidence.
  • Read through your Witness Statement before the trial to refresh /assist with your memory of the offence(s).
  • Ensure your have completed a Court Tour before the trial.
  • Ensure you have discussed special provisions for giving evidence with the DPP Prosecutor or Witness Assistance Officer (where these are available to you).
  • Take time to raise relevant questions or concerns with the Investigation Officer or DPP staff well in advance

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During the trial

Before Giving Evidence

  • Make yourself known to the Sheriff’s Officers (in white) when you arrive.
  • Wait quietly in one of the designated Witness Waiting Areas.
  • If you can, remain calm while you are waiting.
  • Inform the Investigating Officer or relevant staff if you need to go outside the court building for a quick break whilst you wait.
  • Don’t ‘hang around’ the very front of the court building during breaks
  • Make sure you know the length of morning, lunch and afternoon breaks and exactly when you are required to return.
  • Let relevant staff know if you are becoming anxious or distressed

When Giving Evidence

  • Remember that it is normal to feel apprehensive and nervous about court.
  • The Sheriff’s Officer will come and get you when you are required to enter the court.
  • If the Judge is already present (sitting at the ‘bench’), bow your head as you enter and leave the court room (this is a sign of respect).
  • When it is your turn to give evidence, the Sheriff’s Officer will lead you to the witness box and then the Judge’s Associate will ask you to State Your Name and Swear on the Bible or Quran; or Give an Affirmation (promise) to Tell the Truth. Then you can sit down.
  • If you are giving evidence from a separate room via CCTV, the Sheriff’s Officer will set up the relevant technology and let you know when the court is ready to begin.
  • The Prosecutor from the ODPP will ask you questions first and assist you in telling the details of what happened. This is called “Examination In Chief”.
  • Following the ODPP Prosecutor, the Defence Lawyer will ask you questions about your evidence. This is called “Cross Examination”.
  • When you are under Cross Examination, the DPP Prosecutor is not allowed to speak with you during breaks (this is for legal reasons and they are not ignoring you).
  • Following “Cross Examination” the ODPP Prosecutor may ask you a few additional questions if required. This is called “Re-Examination”.
  • When giving evidence in court room remember to:
    • Tell the truth;
    • Speak clearly and take your time (try not to speak too softly or quickly);
    • Speak to the Judge if he or she asks you a question.
    • Always refer to the Judge “Your Honour”;
    • Wait to be asked a question before you speak or respond;
    • Avoid using gestures only in your responses (i.e. nodding, shrugging, pointing, etc);
    • Only answer the questions you have been asked;
    • Say so if you do not understand a question asked of you;
    • Say so if you do not know (or cant remember) the answer to a question;
    • State the facts, giving your opinion only when asked;
  • Also be reminded of the following:
    • Turn off your mobile phone whilst in the court room;
    • Do not chew gum, eat or drink (apart from the water provided) whilst in the court room;
    • Ask if you need some more water;
    • Ask for a break if you are becoming tired or require a toilet break;
    • Do Not swear or use obscene language;
    • Do Not write anything down unless you have been given permission to do so;
    • Remain calm during you evidence even if you are being asked uncomfortable or difficult questions;
    • Do Not leave the court room unless the Judge has given you permission to do so;
    • Do Not discuss your evidence with anyone during the breaks.
  • Remember that the Jury cannot know you and do not receive a copy of your Witness Statement, so it is up to you to tell them what happened.
  • Court sessions are normally between 10am – 1pm and 2:15 – 4:30pm each day. The courts will generally break during these hours.
  • The same court should be used for each day of the trial, however check with the Investigating Officer or DPP staff about this (if you are required to return the following day).

After Giving Evidence

  • After you have given your evidence and you have been dismissed you are free to leave the court building.
  • Have a plan to leave the court premises promptly. It is not advisable to ‘hang around’ the court building.
  • Do Not speak to any other persons involved in the trial (i.e. other witnesses, the accused person/s, defence lawyer, jury or Judge) while it is in progress. This will be viewed unfavourably by the court and may lead to a ‘mis-trial’ (which means the trial will have to start over).

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After the trial

  • Have someone to debrief with after giving evidence (where necessary).
  • IMPORTANT: It is essential that you do not discuss your evidence (or questions asked of you during trial) with others until after the trial is completed.
  • Have a plan in place to distract you after giving evidence.
  • Try not to worry, stress or ‘over-analyse’ what happened during trial.
  • If you have a counsellor, it may assist to book an appointment with them.

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Other general tips

  • Always prepare well in advance to attend trial.
  • It is normal for people to feel worried and nervous about attending court.
  • Where you have a Witness Assistance Officer allocated to you, they can assist in discussing these feelings with you.
  • Organise relevant support persons in advance.
  • Be on time.
  • Speak with the Investigating Officer or relevant ODPP Staff in advance where you have particular concerns.
  • Remain calm.
    Remember that you are not on trial.
  • Seek professional support or advice if you are distressed or not coping.

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